Late one afternoon I went to the Braamfontein Spruit in Johannesburg (spruit is a small river) to photograph these two cats which have been painted on a wall next to the flowing water. The artist has signed them ‘Stay wild’. I am not sure what his intention is with this name, but I took it as a salute to the feral cats that hunt this river at night.
To portray this, I decided to take the picture after sunset. This is an extremely popular route for people to walk their dogs and to cycle. I must have seen 30 dogs and 15 bikers in half an hour. As the light faded so did the people, until only I was left. As I crouched to take the picture five men ap
peared out of the dark. Three came off the street, another two from behind a large tree. They gathered on a flat bit of grass, spoke briefly, and then disappeared into the hollows and baks of the river.
I took the picture and decided it was time to leave as it was dark and a bit spooky. I crested the bank and froze. Twenty meters away, a large cat sat in the path with its back to me. He was mostly dark-gray, with black along the spine and dark vertical stripes. I crouched and lifted my camera, but he sensed the change or a shadow moved. He turned briefly, scowled, and then glided down a slope and into some long grass. I say he, as he was big, unusually big.
Maybe, he lived in a nearby house and only hunted the river bank at night – half-wild; but I doubt it, the way he moved, the snarl, and the eyes that reflected my torch light looked full-on wild: feral. An outlaw!